As part of its global deterrence strategy, the United States has sent its B-1B Lancer strategic bombers to Japan, having previously deployed its latest-generation F-22 fighters to the same region.
Parking of B-1B Lancer and F-22 in Japan
Misawa Air Base in northern Honshu is the new home for the US B-1B Lancers, following their relocation from Dies Air Base in Texas. However, the exact site of its location in Japan remains a secret.
This transfer occurred after it was reported that similar aircraft from the same base were for a time in Sweden. These bombers in Japan will be involved in the Northern Edge 2023 multinational military exercise, which will continue until July 21.
In addition to B-1B Lancers, Japan is also home to F-22 fighters stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. From the Misawa airbase to the Russian Kuriles, it is only 470 km away.
The Role of the B-1B Lancer in the US Air Force
The B-1 Lancer, also known as the Rockwell International B-1 Lancer–Ulan, is a strategic bomber designed to replace the Boeing B-52. It extensively implements “Stealth” technology elements in its design and has been in service with the United States Air Force since July 27, 1985.
In the 1990s, the B-1 was upgraded to carry conventional weapons. The final version of this bomber (B-1B) uses a low-flying strategy to evade air defenses.
As for its role, the US Air Force stated that its strategic bomber force “strengthens the security and stability of our allies and partners” and demonstrates its commitment to providing “rapid global strike capabilities.”
Unexpected maneuvers of the Russian fleet in April
In an unexpected maneuver in April, the Russian Pacific Fleet, under the command of President Vladimir Putin, carried out surprise maneuvers in the Bering and Okhotsk seas. This action caused concern in Japan, especially when the Pacific Fleet deployed large numbers of its warships.
However, the biggest concern was the deployment of two Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bombers, which took off from their base and approached Japan’s air defense zone before patrolling the Bering and Okhotsk seas.
The unexpected deployment and subsequent patrolling of the bombers, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, was considered a serious threat by Japan, prompting a swift response from the Japanese Cabinet of Ministers, which sent a formal protest to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The Kuril Islands focus on tensions between Russia and Japan
The Russian maneuvers took place near the disputed Kuril Islands, an archipelago claimed by both Russia and Japan. The most recent addition of the four islands under Japanese control was a gift from a private investor to the Tokyo government.
In response to Japan’s protest, the Russian Foreign Ministry maintained that all activities were carried out within international law and norms, but this could do little to ease the growing tensions in the region.